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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Where would you meet in Toronto?

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I’m reading a very interesting book called The Wisdom of Crowds, by James Surowiecki. The author describes a fascinating experiment by a social scientist named Thomas Schelling, in 1958, in which he asked a group of university students in New Haven, Conneticut, to imagine this scenario: they had to meet someone in New York City at a certain time, but they didn’t know where, and couldn’t contact the person ahead of time. Where would they go? The students wrote out their answers without consulting each other, and yet the majority of the students chose the same place: the information booth at Grand Central Station. New York possessed a meeting point sufficiently iconic that they actually had a good chance of meeting up.

This experiment made me wonder if there was a similar location that would serve as an obvious, iconic meeting point in Toronto. I suspect there isn’t, really, but there should be. Unfortunately, we can’t repeat the experiment on this blog because everyone can see everyone else’s answer. But perhaps we can start a discussion to establish where such an iconic meeting point could be. So I ask our readers, where would you instinctively choose as the most obvious meeting point in Toronto? It has to be specific enough that you would be confident that you would see the other person immediately if you were both there (i.e. not just Grand Central Station, but specifically the information booth). If there isn’t an adequate landmark in the location you propose, feel free to suggest something that should be built to create the required landmark.

I have my own ideas, but I’ll wait to see what other people suggest first.

photo from Toronto Archives: fonds 1567, series 648, file0075, item 0001



  1. An obvious landmark would be the base of the CN Tower.

  2. If it was a local, Nathan Phillips Square. Someone less familiar with Toronto or a visitor, and I’d be more inclined to say Union Station (or possibly Yonge/Dundas).

  3. The Archer in Nathan Phillips Square

  4. For someone from Toronto, Nathan Phillips Square. For someone visiting Toronto, probably Union Station, but maybe Yonge/Dundas.

  5. (Ooops… first comment mysteriously showed up after all!!)

  6. I would have to say as a non-local, but sometimes visitor to Toronto, I’ve never even heard of Nathan Phillips Square. 🙁

    I want to say Union Station, but I don’t remember too many landmarks within it. Maybe at the top of the stairs leading to the trains–the suitcases I’ve lugged up and down them have made them quite memorable.

  7. Waiting at the Starbucks in RBC just north of Union. The vast majority of people go through there, whether they’re using Union as train, subway or GO station.

  8. Yonge & Bloor. Probably either on the north- or south-bound platform, or at the north end entrance

  9. Yonge/Dundas Square. I can’t think of a particular point in the square, though.

    The stage? I’d probably get kicked off by the security guards.

  10. See the comments here for the answers from 8 others.

    Unlike Grand Central Station in NYC, the answer in Toronto isn’t as obvious.

  11. Kevin asked me a similar question last week. I listed off a bunch of places, but I guess the point of this exercise is to find one.

    I must admit that the first location I visualised while reading the above was the northwest corner of Dundas Square, over the grate.

  12. yonge and bloor subway station- main entrance/ticket booth area.

  13. Before I lived in Toronto, it would have been the intersection of Yonge and Bloor; that’s what non-Torontonians consider as the “centre of the universe” of Canada’s so called “centre of the universe”. Assuming I was meeting a non-Torontonian, I would go there.

    If meeting someone from the GTA, I would go to Union subway station between the ticket booths.

  14. I live in Toronto, and I had the exact same reaction as Jonathan: NW corner of Dundas Square. It’s a busy intersection, but most of the traffic occurs along its west side, and the open space makes it easy to spot people at a distance.

    Curious how the most common ones here I would never think of. I have never met anyone at Nathan Phillips Square (or Union Station, which I find hopelessly confusing). Maybe this speaks of how I perceive the square as a useful landmark.

  15. The fountain at the Eaton’s Centre… I have actually used it as a meeting place several times.

  16. My first automatic thought was inside the main doors of new city hall, at Nathans Phillips Square.

  17. Bizarrely, I would agree that Yonge + Bloor auto-registers as a meeting place. Architecturally and urbanistically execrable as the Hudson’s Bay Centre is, there’s still a mysterious “meeting-placeness” about that NE corner.

    Maybe it’s the ultimate “anti-iconic” meeting point, i.e. meet there, and let the city at large, or whatever you do from that point onward, be its own best icon…

  18. I would say Yonge and Dundas. That is where the most advertising is. Clearly someone has done their research and decided that Y&D is where people go. I would rely on their research and go there. They have cheap americano’s at the cafe on the south side of the square too.

  19. At the dead painted tree, at Peter and Queen. Naturally.

  20. Yonge & Bloor, probably near the NE corner.

  21. The fountain at the Eaton Centre was my immediate first thought, but that’s because it’s a usual pre-arranged meeting spot.

    If I were asked to meet someone in a city that I’ve never visited before, and for which I have no knowledge of local landmarks, I’d try to find the main civic centre. So I guess for Toronto, I’d stand in the middle of Nathan Phillips Square, and keep an eye on The Archer, the rink/fountain, and the front doors of the City Hall.

  22. A police officer friend told me a few years ago that when they are looking for somebody they sometimes place an undercover officer at the Yonge Bloor station or at least leave posters with the ticket collectors. The theory was that due to the layout of the TTC the chances of person using that station were really high. It makes sense but I have no way of verifying if this is official proceedure or not.

  23. Northeast corner of Yonge and Bloor – good for townies and out-of-towners. There’s enough empty space that someone would be immediately visible there (including space to sit on the Royal Bank steps). And you can get a hot dog while you wait.

    (I like the idea of Tim’s toe, but not nearly enough people would know where that is.)

  24. The clock in front of Union Station, no question. I already use it as a de facto downtown meeting spot with my friends.

  25. Northeast corner of Yonge and Bloor – besides having the widest space of any of the corners at that intersection, there is the junction of the subway lines and different neighbourhoods in each direction, within a 15-20 minute walk (Annex, Yorkville, Yonge Strip, Church-Wellesley).

  26. I think that the NW corner Dundas Square would be my choice, though Yonge & Bloor is a close second.

    I don’t think that Timothy Eaton’s statue, now located in the basement of the ROM would be a very likely spot, shiny as the toe may be. 🙂

  27. Now to be fair – this spot is usually pre-arranged, but I always meet people (especially those travelling from out of town) at the cinnabon at union station… all you have to do is follow your nose!

  28. Ack! Corners are not icons. That’s why the post asked for easily identifiable *icons*.

    In NYC, the cube is a well-known meeting spot.

    Toronto has nothing similar, so it then becomes some landmark depending on where you’re going. In Nathan Phillips Square, I’s say the Churchill statue. In the Eaton Centre, the fountain. At Yonge & Bloor, I’d be more inclined to suggest the RBC steps, but you know, beside them, not on them, because the world will come to a screeching halt if you sit on those steps.

  29. I’m with the Y&B-ers on this one. The first thing that popped into my head was the northeast corner of Yonge and Bloor.

  30. how about…centre ice @ the ACC? or directly beneath the lead goose at the Eaton Centre? or at the largest Tim Horton’s in the city [wherever that is]? or in David Miller’s bed?

  31. My first guess: the Eaton Centre where the mall meets Sears.
    A strong second: northeast corner Yonge and Bloor.

  32. My first instinct was NE corner of Yonge/Bloor, or inside by the Shoppers Drug Mart if it’s cold.

    The fountain at the Eaton centre is also a natural one.

  33. Thirty six comments and only one mentions the CN tower? You can see the damn thing from Vaughan for cryign out loud. If I was supposed to meet someone at “the most obvious meeting point” anywhere in Canada I would pick the CN tower.

  34. One thing to remember about this study, and any assessments thereof of New York’s having a single, iconic meeting point in Grand Central: To get into Manhattan, Yale students take New Haven Line Metro-North trains into, you guessed it, Grand Central. Those trains arrive on the upper level of the station, right in front of the inofrmation booth. So that would be an obvious place to meet. My point is that, anywhere, this sort of discussion is entirely dependent on who you’re asking. I would bet a bunch of cash that, if you asked a bunch of Princeton students the same question (especially in 1958, before the demolition of most of it) they would name a spot in Penn Station, which is where trains from New Jersey arrive.

    But for me, in Toronto: probably the clock in front of Union Station or the video screen in Dundas Square.

  35. “In Nathan Phillips Square, I’s say the Churchill statue.”
    That’s odd; I usually think of Winnie as a little bit forlorn and off-orbit. The Archer, or even the peace monument, I can understand…

  36. The big room at Grand Central has also been in all kinds of movies — Cary Grant in North by Northwest, etc. The clock at Union Station, not so much.

  37. obviously, it depends on the other person you are trying to meet. I think a number of my friends would pick Nathan Phillips Square/New City Hall because we pay a fair bit of attention to local politics. The other factor is of the two people meeting, who has the stronger personality or who has a strong sense/knowledge of the city. Some of my less politically inclined friends would not pick Nathan Phillips Sq. but may sense that is *exactly* where I’d be.

    I’m sure some hockey-mad Leafs fans, who are best friends, would pick the ACC of Hockey Hall of Fame at (Front and Yonge).

    I’m surprised that no one picked Spadina and Queen W. For two years we’ve been compiling people’s favourite intersection when the sign-up for Spacing’s newsletter. This intersection is by far the leader.

  38. Queen and Spadina was definitely my first impulse when I read the headline of this post. That is where I tell people to meet me, my favourite intersection and significantly situated at the crossroads of two highly-traveled streetcar corridors. NE corner.

    Also, for New York I definitely would have said Union Square, and I think if the study were repeated today that would be the answer.

  39. Then there’s Queen & John–though maybe more in the 80s/90s, when Much was “cool”.

    I’m wondering if there ought to be a deathwatch for Speaker’s Corner; it looks like a frayed, forlorn relic these days…

  40. i asked my husband this question after i had already thought of an answer and we both said the same thing: near the skating rink at nathan phillips square. i don’t think the similarity comes from us being married, either. we don’t frequent the square together often or anything, it’s just an iconic place in Toronto.

  41. First thought was Dundas Square.

    Second thought was Bloor/Yonge either inside or outside the HBC Centre.

  42. I’d wait at the fountain at the Eaton Centre. I’ve used this as a prearranged meeting spot lots of times for it’s obvious attributes. It’s a great people watching, weatherproof spot. And I must admit that even after all these years I find the fountain itself mesmerizing.

  43. First thought, Clock tower outside Union Station. But thats probably because most of the time I meet people they are coming from all over the GTA, so it just makes sense.

  44. Easy. Sam the Record Man. I don’t even have to tell you the address, do I?

    (Fifty years ago, people would say “Meet me under the clock” and everybody knew it meant under the clock tower at the St. Charles Tavern, just north of College on Yonge Street, west side.)

  45. If you live in the St. Lawrence Market neighbourhood, you always meet inside the front doors of The Market.

  46. Of my years in Toronto I have likely met on the NE corner of Queen and Spadina more than anywhere else, so would have to choose there. However, the CN tower is a no-brainer for anyone not familiar with the city.

  47. Outside the ROM. Easy to get to via the subway, just walk up the steps and you’re there!

  48. Re the St. Charles; where’s the LGBT representation here? Somebody ought to have mentioned the legacy of the Second Cup steps (RIP); or maybe now, the Alexander Wood statue (whose covered endowment might knock a letter out of “meet me under the clock” for all I know)

  49. I would sit in the window at Sneaky Dee’s and drink a beer, and I am sure that whoever I was looking for would walk by eventually…….

  50. I think the problem here is that the people posting responses are FROM the GTA. The natives know the area and places and different regions of the city have their own meeting places. If I said Yonge and Eglinton, there is only one place; inside the doors at BMO. Downtown? Well, it depends how you define “downtown”. The people from Mississauga that call Y/E downtown drives me nuts.

    We lost the main downtown place with the redevelopment of the Yonge/Dundas entrance to Eaton’s. Near the “Green Machines” was THE meeting place. Growing up in Scarborough, saying “meet you downtown” meant only one thing. Now, I would guess at the fountain.

    I would say that for out of towners, City Hall is the first choice for any city that you don’t know. From Connecticut, one probably knows NY better than average.

  51. The base of the CN Tower was my first thought.

  52. Nice comment about the loss of the Yonge/Dundas Eaton Centre corner atrium–sure, it may have been on behalf of a bigger Dundas Square parti, but it’s still one of the more unsung landmark losses of the past few years, not least as a “meeting place”…

  53. by the Henry Moore, of course! there’s even a song about it.
    you can see folks coming from any direction, thanks to all the handy holes in it, and it’s a nice shady place to sit in to boot.

  54. Definitely by the Henry Moore in Nathan Phillips Square, it’s the first and only thing that came to mind. It’s an unmissable spot if you’re meeting people.

  55. Flock.

    In 1958 the “info booth” at Grand Central Station may have been the iconic meeting place of the moment.

    But as cities are organic they inevitably metamorphize, meeting spots et al.

    I hardly think that G.C. info booth is the defacto spot anymore in NYC. The ticket booth at Times Square (or the military recruiting booth) is arguable just as iconic, but what about the new building at Columbus Circle (or Columbus Circle itself?) or any number of iconic spots in Central Park?

    The point is, things change and so do perceptions (and meeting spots).

    Don’t let yourself be pigeon-holed…

  56. My vote would be for under the Princes’ Gates at the CNE Grounds.

  57. I think what most people might be missing here is that the scenario is that you need to meet someone in Toronto, but you have not made any prior arrangement where to meet. All you know if that person will be in the city. In other words, you need to decide where in Toronto is that other person most likely to go if they are looking for you but don’t know where *you* will be?

    The subway at Yonge and Bloor has some merit because (like Grand Central Station) people tend to go through there – probably more people pass through that place in any given day than any other single place in Toronto, so the odds are better there. But the places that we have actually used for pre-arranged meetings, I would think, would tend to be poor places to go simply *because* they had to be pre-arranged in the past.

  58. By the bicycle posts on the south side of Brunswick and Bloor.

  59. The Timothy Eaton statue USED to be the kind of iconic landmark we’re looking for. Sited at the old Eaton’s, and until 1999 in the Eaton Centre, it’s now at the Royal Ontario Museum — somewhat out of the way for a good meeting place.

    As mentioned above, street corners are not icons; and it just goes to show the lack of imaginative thrust possessed by this city that the bleak Dundas Square is one of the top meeting spots that come to mind.

    Another reason a street corner wouldn’t be my choice: if a friend or visitor to the city has to wait for any length of time, they may be exposed to air and noise pollution, and possibly very hot, cold, rainy, or snowy conditions. Not a nice welcome!

    Inside Union Station, at the big clock between the ticket booths, is not ideal; but it’s promising. It’s sheltered, it’s close to the actual terminus of several modes of transportation (whereas one may have a bit of a walk from the subway for some other suggestions above), and there is some character to the architecture. The lofty space, the arches, the stone, lend a settled and restful backdrop for the activity of the travellers; and all contribute to a sense of purpose and of having arrived. One can feel that there is a substance to this Toronto, far from the empty depression one may experience Dundas Square.

    And Bloor/Yonge? Are hot dog vendors the best we can do for a signature landmark?

  60. If it was somebody from toronto, or who knew toronto, and we are traveling by subway, which if i are going down town is usually the way. there are coloured dots on the same spot of each subway station. we pick one of those to meet at, usually.

    also i’ve met friends hwo are not from the city at a certain coffe shop. like starbucks at a certian corner.

  61. Yonge and Dundas, outside of the, now, H&M store.
    First place to come to mind.

  62. Without a doubt the CN Tower. I’ve lived in Toronto for all 29 years of my life and couldn’t give anyone adequate directions to get to Nathan Phillips Square or City Hall.
    My second and third choices are Dundas Square and Union Station respectively.

  63. Meeting place in Toronto, If I was to say to someone, meet me in Toronto somewhere and if you meet me we’ll spend the night together. They should find the sexiest place….!

    If I was to meet family due to a natural disaster…than the biggest largest community center holding the most people.

    If I was to meet someone randomly I would say the base of the CN Tower since the CN tower is the only structure that is uniquely common to all regardless of interests…etc.